In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 15 municipal election, the Summerland Review is asking questions of the candidates for mayor and councillor.
This week’s question: How would you strengthen and support Summerland’s agricultural sector?
Recognizing the farming community as they rightfully should be:
o The largest employer in Summerland;
o A business (Chamber of Commerce please take note);
o Fastest growing industry in this area; (bistros, wineries, bed and breakfasts);
o Assist them in co-habitating with wildlife, continue to be environmentally friendly such as codling moth sterilization program vs. chemicals;
o Recognize, support and include the Summerland Research Station and the Friends of the Gardens into our Summerland first policy;
o Seek out the most advanced farming ideas and assist in introducing them to our community in the form of business.
There should be a cannery, juice plant and a packing house in Summerland.
Ever since I came here in the early 1970s, there has been an ongoing issue about housing and living standards that orchard and vineyard workers face.
The Summerland Community Component Working Group needs to address this issue.
I understand the need to increase the economic viability of farms and vineyards in the District of Summerland. Failure to do so will only increase the demand on the agricultural lands for non-agricultural use.
I propose to meet with, listen to and work with agriculturalists to better understand their views on how the District can better assist with increased revenue from their lands. Eco agricultural tourism and options for value added agricultural initiatives, needs to be explored. The concept of exchanging not only ideas but product with like-minded communities with unique regional advantages (ie. lobster from the Atlantic, fish from the West Coast, potatoes from Prince Edward Island in exchange for cherries, peaches wine etc. from Summerland) needs to be explored with the cost benefit of doing so assessed. In addition, I would propose to recreate the Taste of Summerland event coupled with a Sunday Farmer’s Market bringing food, wine and farmers together in the downtown Main Street district of Summerland.
The 2008 Official Community Plan strengthens and supports agriculture.
With respect to the Urban Growth Strategy, Council spun the fact to the public that their whole growth strategy is based on Smart Growth Principles.
But Principle #7 of Smart Growth BC states, “protect and enhance agricultural land.” In fact, the proposed Urban Growth Strategy violates the principles of Smart Growth B.C.
Protection of agricultural land can be achieved by densification of the downtown core and hillside development. There has not been one four storey or one three storey building since I was mayor. The proposed amendment to the OCP eliminates hillside development and promotes development on agricultural land.
Agricultural land needs to be renamed agricultural industrial land. It is an industry just like an any other industry and should be treated and supported as such. It should not be viewed as parkland for future development.
Farmland in Summerland uses 80 per cent of our Water Treatment Plant water. This is why it is so important to continue to split off our treated water from the agricultural user.
This would cut costs to all the users, providing a more responsible water use system.
Another area is to encourage agri-tourism, which brings tourist to our community.
Our wineries and vineyards are an excellent example of this venture. Unfortunately we lost three major employers in the agricultural industry, the B.C. Fruit Packers Cooperative, PRT-Summerland Nursery and Kettle Valley Dried Fruit.
Are these industries that would come back to Summerland in the future? Or can we attract similar ventures?
I would like to explore these avenues.
We have to be open for business, and receptive to new ideas, one only has to look at the success of Ripley Stainless (1997) Ltd. and Summerland Sweets. Summerland can offer so much more with vision, and moving forward.
The 2008 Agricultural Plan needs to be read carefully. A key phrase in the plan states, “The agricultural industry must be reassured of the sustainability of its soils and water and protection from the urban and rural growth pressure.”
The plan also states that there are a number of potential opportunities for the industry to grow including international niche marketing, small scale food processing, development of a centre of excellence for sustainable agriculture and nurturing new agri-food and agricultural ventures and rural tourism and wine tourism.
The formation of the Bottleneck Drive group of wineries is a good example of cooperation amongst businesses to grow sales through increasing tourism opportunities.
My platform statement of the formation of a Mayor’s Task Force on our economy would likely see many more cooperative efforts and suggestions that would support and strengthen agriculture in cooperation with the rest of the business community.
The first action I would take to support agriculture when on council would be to withdraw the land swap application currently with the Agricultural Land Commission.
I would reinstate the Agricultural Advisory Committee with a redesigned mandate to consult with growers and processors on agricultural issues.
This committee would be focused on agricultural issues and could research and consult with affected stakeholders in greater depth than council could and then present alternatives and recommendations on these issues to council.
Having degrees in both agriculture and business I am keenly interested in this sector and recognize that farming has challenges.
There are the challenges that come with growing crops as well as the business challenges to navigate such as finance, labour, distribution and government regulation.
I understand the issues and concerns of farmers and look forward to working with this very important sector of Summerland’s economy.
The first thing I would do to support our agricultural sector is to support the withdrawal of the application made to the Agricultural Land Commission.
If the application is processed before the elected candidates take office, I will most definitely vote against the proposal when it comes back to council for a fourth reading.
Further, I will work to institute municipal policy to protect our agricultural sector above and beyond that provided by the ALC/ALR.
As we move further into the 21st century, and witness how climate change and other environmental factors are drastically impacting California and the Midwest, it is foolish to develop prime agricultural land.
In fact, I feel every decision made by council should be first be examined and debated with this question in mind: “Will this decision make our town more self-reliant or self-sustainable?”
The potential is huge.
First of all, we must protect farmland in perpetuity for future generations.
If we reinstate the Agricultural Advisory Committee, we can start looking at new ideas.
Working together we could create a mentor program to assist existing and aspiring farmers and leverage the wealth of experience that resides within our community.
An AAC could look at creative ways in which to increase returns, such as fallow farmland lease programs.
There are a number of communities in North America that have implemented development concepts using productive agriculture as the central draw.
Finally, on a personal level, I will be an orchardist and an employer who cares about her workers, the natural environment and quality of food that is being produced.
The B.C. Fruit Growers Association approves my agricultural policies. Protecting agricultural land is imperative and I oppose the land swap.
I support “right to farm legislation” which protects normal farm practices.
Access to sufficient and affordable water is a given.
We must continue encouraging the Farmer’s Market as an important outlet for small scale growers that promotes the “buy local” initiative. Our vineyards and wineries are a major tourist attraction. I discovered at the Farmer’s Market that many agri-tourists become citizens.
An agricultural advisory committee with meaningful farm representation endorsed by all agricultural organizations.
Response unavailable by press time.
Council must seek to encourage the prosperity of all our residents, businesses, and farmers.
The roles of our mayor and councillors are rarely glamourous and they are afforded no magic wand.
The priorities of our local government are to improve the quality of our lives and maintain, if not enhance, our standard of living. Most of this revolves around managing our eight-figure annual budget and seeing that our towns’ services are managed prudently.
The role of local government, with respect to our agricultural sector, is to ensure that there is an adequate supply of land for our farmers.
Other entities, such as the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, are responsible for and better equipped to address the promotion and sustenance of our agricultural community.
I would support the investment of commissioning experts to achieve the desired economic and agricultural stimulus, rather than having council attempt to tackle this themselves.
Agricultural technology, crop density improvements, and water management science have progressed significantly in the last 20 years.
This has been reflected in the expansion of many agricultural products and the great wealth that is being generated by these products. Summerland has taken advantage of this, but we have much capability still unrealized.
The availability of water allocation is holding back significant investment in the expansion of our agricultural growth potential. We must continue to strongly pursue systematic twinning of our water systems, allowing our expensive residential treated water to be allocated to residential needs, while increasing the supply of inexpensive water for our growing agricultural needs. Doing so in a strategic and fiscally responsible manner will ensure our water system can meet all our demands now and in the future.
I would encourage agri tourism, build on what we already have, especially in the wine industry. There are so many unexplored successful ideas out there that are being done in other jurisdictions, that could easily be applied to Summerland.
Open up more lands for the use of the agricultural industry.
Explore the idea of establishing an industrial park for suppliers of the wine industry, corks, bottles, labels etc., to add to what is an established list of suppliers to the wine industry already here.
Make sure that the new agricultural water rates remain affordable to the farming community.
1. Maintain the integrity of the ALR and adhere to Smart Growth principles, which place priority on infill, redevelopment, and the protection of agriculture and green space.
2. With many orchardists nearing retirement, there’s a need for new entrants into the agricultural sector. There should be opportunities for industry or post-secondary agricultural training within the community, or a program to match new farmers with existing farmers who might have land available or expertise to share.
3. Promote Summerland’s potential for a “half farmer, half X” lifestyle where people combine small-scale farming with an off-the-farm career (the “X”). The movement, popular in Japan, turns what used to be a farming necessity into a conscious lifestyle choice.
4. Support the continued expansion of the Summerland Farmer’s Market to include mobile and ‘pocket’ markets at community events and in different neighbourhoods.
I would support the agriculture sector in town just as any other business, mainly in support of implementing industry driven strategic plans/initiatives.
Under the proposed Mayor’s Task Force, I would support re-instating the previous :
Water Committee made up of a cross section of the agriculture/business/residential community.
Summerland will always have water issues to discuss.
Agricultural Advisory Committee — Most rural communities have them. It adds validity when dealing with senior government, should not be considered a hindrance.
Also support the creation of a local Farmers Institute, a non-council appointed body, a platform for the voice of all the diverse agricultural entities in Summerland with a mandate to broaden the input beyond just exclusions and zoning issues which the AAC was usually saddled with.
This body could be representative to council and other businesses, to include creative projects, initiatives, agri-tourism efforts and ventures with other local businesses.
Advertise farmers’ markets in town, a Saturday market. It would be nice if people from Peachland and Penticton would visit and taste the fruit in town.
I sampled a free apple from the basket in front of the bakery and it was crisp and fresh, and the fruit comes off a tree down the road here in town.
Greenhouses grew vegetables year round, and would be a good idea, for the winter.
We have the research centre and it is great.
Recognizing that locally produced food is fresher and more nutritious and that it also represents a huge reduction in pollution and energy use, and in money circulating through the local economy we should be promoting buy and use local campaigns.
A thriving agricultural community is of benefit for a healthy province and our local citizens.
Promotion, education and information sharing to link the community at large, businesses and local government could benefit all of us. A map that shows residents and visitors where you can buy or pick local fruits and vegetables would be a boost to our area. A downtown kiosk with information available to visitors should be set up. Many people never visit the Chamber of Commerce if they only come to the downtown but armed with more information they may investigate other attractions, e.g. wineries, restaurants, artist’s studios and our amazing beaches.
The municipality could amend its zoning bylaw to make it easier for farmers and wineries to operate and advertise agri-tourism and direct farm marketing enterprises.
I believe we can strengthen our agricultural community and, at the same time, bring Summerland to life.
I would suggest bringing the wineries and produce growers into the downtown area to celebrate Summerland and sell their goods in a festive atmosphere. In this way we would be uniting them with Summerland and increasing their revenues.
We have to stop thinking of agriculture as secondary to other businesses. We have a vibrant agricultural sector that provides jobs and brings dollars into the community. Our products go all over the world and can attract attention to other sectors.
When we work together as a community then everyone benefits. We need a catchy logo or saying that ties our products together. A case of wine shipped with a ‘taste of Summerland!” sticker and a website can attract people to other products that are grown or produced locally.
We need to protect our resources like land and water.
People love Summerland because of all the green spaces. I live near the hay fields on Dale Meadows Road and walking around the ball fields in June or January gives me a great amount of joy.
Agriculture plays a huge role in Summerland’s identity. It’s not all that we are – but it is a defining characteristic and something to be proud of.
I would support expanding our Farmers’ Market or opening a permanent Farmers’ Market store or cooperative where farmers can sell their products.
I believe infrastructure upgrades to our water systems will enable us to better deliver water to current and future farms.
As well, I would investigate new ways to position Summerland as one of B.C.’s top destinations for food and wine production, food science and innovation and tourism.
Finally, what can we do to attract the next generation of farmers?
As manager of the Penticton Farmers’ Market, I work with several young families who have farms in Cawston, Keremeos, Oliver and Summerland. There is a demand for locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables — as demonstrated by the popularity of farmers’ markets. This demand is sure to increase as the cost of imported produce goes up.
Martin Van Alphen
People need to shop locally to support their local farmers and if they truly believe in the “100 mile diet” we need to continue to lobby senior government to relax the legislation around farmgate sales.
We also need to seriously advocate to look at a Farmers Market on Friday evenings so that young, working families can take advantage of our local produce.
During the colder months, perhaps we could utilize the empty downtown store fronts.